Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Memoirs of a Gay Sire

Kyoto. 京都

Even the name itself evokes gauzy images of perfectly coiffed geishas daintily fluttering up cobblestoned lanes towards mist-enshrouded mountain shrines to offer up their daily prayers.

Though nondescript concrete box skyscrapers now dominate the modern city skyline, all it takes to find that romantic view of Kyoto is an inadvertent slip down a shady side lane. Perhaps I might not have been a true believer of all things Japanese before but I'll admit to falling just a bit in love with the city after spending a few days there. Hard not to tumble a little when you're awoken on a misty February morning to a light snowfall over a Japanese zen garden. Followed by the soft hush of slippered feet as the gentle ryokan owner brings you the exquisitely presented kaiseki meals.

It was worth even the hellish madcap rush through Osaka Central to find the proper train to Kyoto. With several private train companies operating in the immediate area, it isn't surprising that the increasingly complex train system seems wildly entangled. Far from the ruthless efficiency and organization the Japanese are renowned for.

But all it took was less than an hour to be away from the chaos of Osaka - and on towards the more sedate charms of Kyoto.

Would certainly recommend at least an overnight at one of the many luxurious ryokans dotting the city. Basically a traditional Japanese inn catering to weary travellers along their many highways, ryokans are the perfect opportunity to experience the lifestyle and hospitality of the Japanese, incorporating local elements such as tatami floors, futon beds, baths and local cuisine.

Yes, my room looked just like those in the movies. And yes, I was dressed similarly, except without the radical haircut. 

For us, the first day was mostly spent trying to navigate our way through the seemingly labyrinthine maze of the ryokan in our newly minted yukatas and getas. After an hour or two, it seems almost natural to be strutting around in our yukatas - so much so that we actually purchased a few later. Fortunately we already had some experience with knotting towels and sarongs which helped plenty - since I doubt the ryokan would be pleased to have us unwittingly flashing them.

Of course being utterly naked was par for the course in the communal bathing area. Unless you count the little scrap of towel as adequate cover. Nothing quite as intimate as sitting side by side with your boyfriend on matching stools while tossing sandalwood scented soap and shampoo at one another; all before stepping into the shockingly steamy bath.

Followed by an elaborate kaiseki dinner by the garden; the half which I had no idea what plant or animal the dish came from though all were supremely delicious. Though sometimes the dishes were so exquisitely presented that it seemed a shame to just consume them expeditiously.


Anonymous said...

Glad that you had a great time there. I lived in Kyoto for 3 years really fell in love with it. Shame that Japanese man are so shy......


savante said...

Still living in Kyoto, tokcoy?

Anonymous said...

Nope, moved to Sweden since 2010. WIsh I was there to show you and Calvin around. Have been following your blog and his (though he stops blogging?) for years.
If you stop by Stockholm, tell me! The delicious Scandinavian men are waiting....